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Airbnb, Slack Have Considered Direct Listing, Rather Than Traditional IPO

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky has discussed with Spotify CEO Daniel Ek the prospect of going public without selling new shares, and the travel company has studied the issue, Recode reported Monday. Spotify took the unusual route earlier this year of going public via “direct listing.” There are many benefits to a direct listing that has enticed Airbnb for years, which we’ve laid out previously: Existing shareholders would get to sell stakes immediately and would avoid the dilution that comes with the company selling new shares. 

Another model Airbnb has considered in the past, we’re told, is the Long-Term Stock Exchange, a new trading exchange backed by Silicon Valley investors which increases the voting power of shares the longer investors own them. Its proponents have included prominent Airbnb investors Peter Thiel, Marc Andreessen and Reid Hoffman. 

But consider us skeptical that Airbnb will get too cute with its IPO. While both are well-known consumer companies, Spotify benefits more from avoiding a traditional IPO because it has a weaker business model than Airbnb. Plus, Airbnb just hired a new chief financial officer, who must beat a ticking clock that requires Airbnb to go public within the next couple years before some employee stock grants expire.

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